On April 2nd Facebook profile pictures, porch lights, and t-shirts across America (and many other counties in the world) will be lit up blue as part of World Autism Awareness Day. The color blue is the international symbol of this special day and communities, households, and schools are encouraged to don the color to help foster understanding and acceptance of people in the autism community. I absolutely love everything about World Autism Awareness Day - what it stands for, what it encourages, and the population that benefits from it. A population that includes my five year old son who is on the autism spectrum.
While I love this day for what it is, a part of me wishes that we didn't need to have a day devoted to raising acceptance for people with autism. I wholeheartedly wish that everyday everyone could "Light It Up Blue" in support of the autism community. While I know many people do accept, understand, and support those with ASD in their everyday lives, I can't help but feel there could be more done throughout the year to foster more compassion, advocacy and encouragement of those with autism.
I know that the world isn't a perfect place. I see it everyday. So many people lack a basic understanding of what it means to be autistic. They think they know the struggles a person on the spectrum faces day in and day out. Yet, there's no way to ever truly know unless you have been diagnosed with ASD. As the mother of a child with autism, I see how the outside world acts as if they know my son. From the moment he was officially diagnosed the world put him in a box and he was expected to stay within the confines of that box for the rest his life. But what many people don't understand is that autism, like any other disorder, manifests itself in different ways in each individual person. Like personality traits and thumb prints, the way in which autism is seen to the outside world is different for each person.
In my lifetime I would love to see more of an understanding and tolerance for individuals on the spectrum. I'd like to see them break boundaries and stereotypes and force their way out of the boxes that they've been put into by a world that doesn't fully understand them. I'd like to see a world with more people like Temple Grandin, who continues to be a role model for other people with autism that come after her and is a constant champion to the community.
We need more moms, dads, sisters and brothers of people on the spectrum to continue to educate people that are not so familiar with what it means to have autism or to have a loved one with autism. My hope is that teachers will continue to familiarize the fellow students of kids on the spectrum with what the world is like for these special children, so that one day the stigma will be gone completely and autistic children will no longer be amongst the outcasts.
If I have just one wish as a mother it would be to give everyone in the world the knowledge, compassion, and appreciation for individuals like my son and the many others out there effected by ASD. Let's keep the world blue all year round and not just on April 2nd.